Whispers whipped through the hallways of Queen Creek right around this time two years ago.
On Nov. 13, 2010, Mountain View — arguably the most decorated big-school football program in the state — fired coach Tom Joseph after the team’s first losing season in history.
The Bulldogs were in the midst of a playoff run, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill from anointing their coach as the heir apparent.
Joe Germaine led the Toros to a state championship as a player in 1993, then went on to win a Rose Bowl as a quarterback at Ohio State and a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams.
Meanwhile, open enrollment, transfers and a shifting geographical landscape had bitten into Mountain View’s competitiveness, and as the results declined, the clamor for Germaine — a promising coach with a link to the Toros' golden days — grew louder. That buzz quickly hit Queen Creek.
“That’s what happens when you have a good coach,” Queen Creek athletic director Paul Reynolds said. “People are going to talk and say he’s going to go somewhere else. You’re always a little nervous, like, ‘Hey, he might really go over there.’”
Germaine, ever-sensible to his core, did not let the anticipation build for very long.
“There were a lot of rumors going around, but coach Germaine was flat-out honest with us,” senior left tackle Dalton Tebbs said. “He sat us all down and was like, ‘I’m not going to leave you guys. We’ve got a good thing going here.’”
As it turns out, Germaine did not need Mountain View. Instead, he brought its style, its assistant coaches, its expectations, and ultimately, its success, with him to Queen Creek.
Three years have passed since he became the Bulldogs’ football coach. They have gone 33-5 in that time with state quarterfinal and semifinal appearances the first two years and now a berth in the Division III championship game.
Queen Creek will face top-seeded Desert Edge on Saturday at 3:07 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium with a chance at the school’s first state football title.
While the colors on these jerseys may be purple and gold instead of red and blue, it’s not hard to see the Mountain View touch.
“That’s what we were apart of, and that’s what we knew,” Germaine said. “We’re not going to be so hard-headed where it’s this way or the highway, but we do require things from our players. We require them to dress a certain way, to act a certain way, to represent themselves in a certain way. The name on their jersey, ‘Queen Creek’, is bigger than they are. If someone doesn’t buy into that, then they’re not a good fit for what we’re trying to do.”
“I can see how a lot of people think we’re Mountain View Southeast,” Germaine said.
Like its distant Toro cousin, the Bulldogs pay attention to details, play a bend-but-don’t-break defense and run the ball to set up the pass.
Queen Creek rarely commits turnovers and was only flagged for a single five-yard penalty in last week’s 35-0 semifinal victory over Nogales.
The discipline is no coincidence.
“One of the things our offense does when we conclude practice is five perfect plays,” linebacker Dean Wenger said. “If the linemen miss a block, we have to go back and start all over at play one. If people don’t finish their block, they have to run 10 yards. If they don’t run the whole 10 yards, they have to come back and start again. It’s the little things like that.”
Saturday will mark the final game for several key seniors at Queen Creek. However, a look ahead shows a bright future. Running back Matt Guida leads the state in rushing and is only a junior, as is capable backup Marcus Still.
Very few programs have shown the ability to be perennial contenders over a long stretch. Mountain View, of course, was one of those teams.
Queen Creek wants to be next.
“It’s crossed our minds many times,” Reynolds said. “Joe’s developed the same type of mentality and the same type of kids as the old Mountain View style. It’s been fun and hopefully it’s just starting to get rolling here.”